Monday, February 28, 2011

Steelhead On the Quatse River (take two)

Sometimes co-ordinating time to go fishing together can be hard for the three of us. We all work different shifts and have varying days off. Add in to the mix the fact that the Jester has two young kids and a wife who works weekends, and time becomes a rare commodity. In the summer we bring the kids with us and they have a blast on shore cheering us on. His eight year-old daughter is great at helping to release or bonk the fish and even reeled in a sockeye last year. In the winter the places we have been fishing are definitely not kid friendly. So, on Saturday evening when the Jester discovered that his in-laws wanted to spend Sunday with the kids and that I had the next day off work, we began to quickly pan an impromptu steelhead hunt for the next day. The Prince had to work so it would just be the two of us. We decided to try the Quatse River again after getting skunked there last week. We checked the weather report (**remember this as you read on**) and it called for light rain and 5 degrees. We thought some fresh water and a rising river level would give us a better chance to find some fish. Reports out of Port Hardy were that people will still pulling out fish in decent numbers and I really really really want to catch a winter steelhead!

We decided to try and get in on the morning bite so we set out on the three hour drive at 4:00am. It was snowing lightly as we headed North but we were trusting the weather report and itching for redemption. As we reached the Woss turnoff it was snowing pretty heavily but by this time we had passed the halfway point and the sun was beginning to rise so we pressed on. The drive took longer than usual because of the snow but we had our lines in the water by 8:00. We were a little disheartened to see that the river level was actually down from the previous week so this limited the number of deep pools where the elusive creatures might be hiding out. We stopped to chat with a fellow angler who told us stories of the fish he had been catching all week but said he had not even had a bite that morning. This seemed to be the theme of the day. Lots of stories of how good the fishing was only a few days earlier. I am starting to this there is a larger Quatse River conspiracy going on designed to make me think I am going insane. I have never even see someone play a fish on that river despite the all the fish tales!

Snowy start to the day

We spent the morning fishing the North side of the Quatse trying each pool for 30-60 minutes before hiking to the next area and casting in again. The snow fell lightly until 11am and then the sun came out and we had an hour of warmth and blue sky. As the promise of a morning bite began to fade we decided to do a little exploring and drove back towards Port McNeill to check out the Cluxewe River. We knew little of this river other than that the Steelhead run the previous winter had been incredible. We found a logging road that ran along the river, parked and hiked down towards the shore. Unlike the Quatse, the Cluxewe is crystal clear and mostly shallow. It was a beautiful river but definitely not the place for Steelhead to hide in the murky shadows. The river is not a long one and we hiked the shore for awhile looking for any areas that might have some potential, but it was just not meant to be this time. I would love to come back to this beautiful river in the summer and fall to try for Coho and Pinks. We spent and hour or so exploring the Cuxewe and then decided to head back to the Quatse and start hunting again.

Cluxewe River

Here fishy fishy!

This time we explored the shore further North on the Hatchery side, by this point we were running on pure stubbornness but were generally in good spirits. We discussed heading for home but the sun began to shine again so we kept on tossing in our lines. At one point Kris said we just needed a final sign to tell us it was time to call it a day. Moments later, after a day of almost no gear loss, he wrapped his line around a tree limb above his head. I said that was the first sign, on my next cast I snagged and lost my entire set up, sign number two. Within moments the third sign arrived in a spontaneous and head battering hail storm. We were still about a half hours hike to the car so we could do nothing but shake our heads and laugh at our misfortune and poor judgement. As we trudge up the bank and along the trail through the hail that was turning to snow we saw one lone fisherman in the middle of the river. He told us he had not brought in a fish all day but had had a strike a little while earlier. That was enough for the Jester to scramble down the rocky slope and try a little longer. I shot a little video in hopes that at a later, more clear headed moment, it could be used to show him how deep his obsession goes.

Admitting Defeat

We left Port Hardy at 4:30 with an empty cooler and frozen toes but we were still happy to have spent the day outside on the hunt. The snow was coming down heavy and we debated the logic of driving over the mountain pass in this weather or heading to Port Alice and crashing with the Prince for the night. As we approached the Port Alice turnoff the weather began to clear and the sun poked through. We kept driving, remembering the weather report that had called for rain and warmer temperatures. By the time we reached Woss the snow was several inches thick on the road and we were inching our way along. At one point we decided we should turn back but the thought of trying to turn around anywhere on the narrow snow covered highway was terrifying so we kept creeping along. 20km outside of Sayward we hit complete white out. I lived in Calgary for many years and have driven through a lot of snow but I have never been in a storm like that.

Beginning of a scary snowy drive

When I finally crawled into bed, 20 hours after leaving it that morning, I was reflecting on the day. I was relieved that we made it through the storm in one peace, I was physically exhausted from many hours of hiking and casting and I was mentally exhausted from the drive home. I was also trying to figure out how soon I could get back out there and try again. The winter steelhead window is shrinking and I am not good at admitting defeat. I have also had a new reel on order for six weeks and it should be here in a few days, I would love for the first fish I catch with it to be the steelhead that keeps eluding me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feeling Saucey!

This year the Halibut season in BC begins March 1. In anticipation of this blessed event, tonight we decided to cook one of our few remaining pieces of halibut from last years catch. Here is a before picture of the Hali the day the Prince reeled him in somewhere in the open waters off the Northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

This beauty has given us many delicious dinners this winter, including the one tonight. To make this easy crusted halibut just whisk one egg with 2 tsp cold water. Dip the pieces of fish in the egg and then coat with panko breadcrumbs (lightly salted). Pan fry in vegetable oil two minutes per side (for 1 1/2 inch thick pieces). Of course you can not have breaded halibut without tartar sauce. Homemade tartar sauce is so easy and delicious. After trying many different recipes this is what we like the best:

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped dill pickles
1 tbsp chopped capers
2 tsp pickle juice
1 tsp lemon juice
dash of Tabasco sauce

Mix everything together and refrigerate for at least three hours (preferably over night). Tartar sauce is one of the times I am willing to open up one of my few remaining jars of home made pickles from last summer. It seems that this year we need to work on increasing our halibut and pickle yields so we don't run into the same shortage this time next year.

We also had some lovely spot prawns with dinner and I thought I would pass on the easiest sauce I know. Seafood cocktail sauce is one of my favourite things. The spicy kick of the sauce combined with the delicate flavour of the prawn is perfection. To make the sauce yourself just combine 1/2 cup of ketchup, 1 heaping tbsp of horseradish (I prefer the creamed kind) and a tbsp of lemon juice. This can be served immediately.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What is white and black and white?

The day has finally arrived! I have not picked up my fishing rod since the chum and coho turned nasty in the Puntledge in October. Today the three of us headed to the Quatse River near Port Hardy at the north end of Vancouver Island. Chris was already near there for work so the Jester and I left at 5:00 this morning to do the three hour drive.
Redbull break at Hyde Creek
This area of the island is isolated and has no cell phone or radio reception so the drive was a relentless iPod battle with a playlist running the gamut from Lady Gaga to Johnny Horton. There is nothing like Poker Face followed by North to Alaska to get you ready for a day of fishing! This drive boasts some of the most beautiful scenery on Vancouver Island. Snow covered mountain peaks, pristine rivers and huge cedar trees surround you the entire drive. It is easy to take for granted how lucky we are to live here but I don't think anyone could drive that highway and not be in awe.
Full of early morning optimism

We hooked up with the prince at 8:30 and headed to the Quatse. This is one of a few rivers that allows bait for steelhead so we came armed with shrimp along with various other enticements we hoped to fish would like. I brought my little red Abu bait caster and the boys were both using Islander centerpins. When we checked the weather forecast before leaving Comox and it said a mix of sun/rain/snow. This is a typical north island February forecast so we decided to tempt fate and hope mother nature would have mercy on us. The morning started of slightly overcast and -1c. We rigged up our gear and began to cast. The water was dark and murky from the recent rainfall and although the river is a shallow one we could not see anything. We moved further downriver every half hour and switched up our tackle. We tried wool, shrimp and wool, artificial roe clusters, Colorado lures, and Hawkeye worms.

Trying out a Colorado lure

Even though the fish weren't biting the jester was loving every second of breaking in his shiny new centerpin. He has never been so quiet while fishing.. The benefit of this reel to me is far less tangling with my line and the casting control keeps him out of my way!

Focussed on the centerpin

Around 11:00 the snow started falling lightly... At 11:30 the snow started falling steadily... By noon we were fishing in a white out.


A snowy prince

There were a few other anglers braving the river and we all agree that these are some of the friendliest people we have met while fishing. We did not lose much gear today but when one of my floats snagged and drifted down the river a sweet old guy who was wading in grabbed it and brought it back to me on his way out. He told us that the Quatse is best fished early in the morning and late afternoon.

An unsuccessful day at the river is still
better than any day not at the river!
Unfortunately by 2:30 the snow was still falling and we decided it was best to get on the road home before it became undrivable. As hard as it was to cut our fishing day short it was the right decision as this is what we encountered near Sayward.

So I am still a steelhead virgin but I hope to give it at least one more try this winter. We all hate to leave the river without playing some fish but it was still fun to be out there trying our luck and river fishing in a snowstorm is an experience that I won't soon forget.

So, what is white and black and white????
Getting skunked in the snow!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Princess Salmon Chowder

I absolutely love seafood chowders and have tried many different recipes. In the summer I fill my pantry by canning salmon when the pinks, chum and spring are so plentiful. We freeze the sockeye and coho fillets but I prefer the others canned. I wanted to create a salmon chowder to utilize some of my stash but also to make a lighter version than the creamy ones found in most cookbooks. This chowder is filling and delicious and in the middle of winter it brings back memories of being in the river in shorts and sandals, soaking up the sun and reeling in some silver beauties!

2 thin skinned potatoes cooked and diced
2 carrots cooked and diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 stalk celery finely chopped
3 tbsp flour
1 can evaporated milk
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans salmon
2 cups corn kernels
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped

In a large pot heat olive oil and add celery & onion, and saute for 2 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add and flour, whisking briskly for 1 minute to create roux. Add milk slowly while continuing to whisk. Add broth and bring to a boil continuing to stir. Add salmon, diced potatoes and carrots, corn, paprika and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for at least 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Add dill just before serving.

The three of us are heading out on a Steelhead hunt this weekend. This will be my first trip to the river this year and I am itching to get out on the water. Hopefully I will be back blogging in a couple of days with some great pictures and tales of how I outfished the boys!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Jesters Opinion

Today we finally found out when the BC halibut season is going to open. That is the good news, the bad news is that nothing has really changed. The halibut fishery will open on March 1 for 2011 but this is only a temporary solution and we will be going through the same uncertainty next season. There are many different opinions on what is the right solution. I think that it is time to be more proactive. Rather than the fisheries trying to play the sports fishermen against the commercial guys we manage our own end of it. Last year the sports fishery over fished halibut by 120,000lbs. One option could be a tag system similar to the one used with Chinooks or Steel heed. This would limit the number of Halibut caught by each individual and the numbers could be re-evaluated at the end of the season. Here is the link to the D.F.O’s announcement.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Holy Shark Batman!

I grew up in Port Alberni and my hometown friends were passing around this picture from the local paper yesterday of a massive shark that washed up on shore just outside of town. Click here to see the story from the local paper. I will be thinking of this little fella the next time we launch our boat in the Alberni Inlet!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Princess Summer Rolls

The boat is out of the water for some maintenance (can you hear the dollar signs flying out of our bank account) and the next fishing adventure is a couple of weeks away. Until then we are limited to long discussions of the ghosts of fish past, the dreams of fish future and anticipation of some new gear the Jester and I are waiting for. I have also been busy in the kitchen cooking my way through some of our ocean goodies. Here are a couple of our favourite recipes:
Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Run the rice wrapper under hot water to soften, lay it on a clean dish towel.

Fill with cooked rice noodles, carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts, lettuce, basil and cooked prawns.
Roll up and enjoy!

Peanut Sauce: Combine ingredients in food processor until smooth.

3/4 cup peanut butter
3 cloves garlic minced
1 small onion chopped
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp h.p. sauce
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sesame oil

Spinach Risotto with Roasted Prawns

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup minced shallots
1 cup Arborio rice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups of fresh spinach
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the shallots and garlic in the olive oil over a medium heat stirring frequently until they are tender and beginning to brown.
Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a separate pot.
Add the rice grain to the shallots and continue stirring, toasting them for about three minutes.
Turn the heat to medium low and add the white wine. Stir briskly until it is fully absorbed. Add two cups of the chicken broth and continue stirring frequently until it is absorbed.
Repeat with the remaining broth, a cup at a time, stirring frequently.
When the last broth has been absorbed add the spinach and stir until wilted.
Test the rice for doneness. Add more broth if necessary. Stir in the cheese and season to taste. Serve immediately.

Roasted Prawns:

Peel prawns leaving the tails on
Pat them dry with a clean towel
Toss in olive oil and salt and pepper
Place on a cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 6 minutes

This recipe takes a little time but is definitely worth the effort!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I destroy a lot of gear!

I got my Jester reputation for two reasons. The first is the willingness to get fish and recover gear. The second is that I have bad luck with gear. Christy would say it is because I am really hard on my gear but I disagree. I think a lot of it has to do with buying the wrong gear for how I like to fish. I have a tendency to bulldog in my fish rather letting the fish play out. I am now searching for fishing gear that will withstand my aggressive fishing style.

My first reel was the Abu Garcia 6600 that Christy posted about earlier. It lasted me less than three weeks before the worm gear broke. I sent it to be warranty repaired with Abu Garcia, unfortunately it took seven months to return it to me. I ended up getting a new one from them as the other could not be repaired. While I was waiting for it I bought a Shimano Corvalus 400 because the warranty is a two week turnaround and it is a stronger reel. Unfortunately I got to test this warranty out within the first two months of fishing with it when the worm gear broke again. Much to my surprise Shimano had my reel back to me within the two week span. I fished the rest of the season with my reel but I think I need to find something that will withstand my more aggressive fishing style.

I am looking at either a Shimano Calcutta or a Center Pin (either Islander or King Pin or Okuma). When I went out steel heading with the guide last weekend I was able to try both a Islander Center Pin and a Shimano Calcutta. I was impressed with how both preformed with the large fish. I am hoping to test these reels a few more times before committing to the purchase of one of these more expensive reels.

I would like any input or feedback! If you fish with any of these reels or others that work well with river Salmon fishing let me know.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Prawns and Crabs.. Oh My!!

Chris works in Port Alice, a little town at the top of Vancouver Island. He has had the boat up there all winter and spends all of his off work daylight hours setting, pulling and resetting our prawn and crab traps. This is his 'happy place', all alone on the (usually) peaceful water.

He is usually very successful, especially with the prawns. We literally have a freezer full of prawns and I am constantly trying out new ways to cook them. I have been sworn to secrecy about his prawning methods (but I'm sure he could be bribed to let some of his tricks slip out!). For Crabs he uses the prawn heads in a bait jar and swears by these round stainless steels traps.

The boat is home right now for some much needed maintenance and hopefully Chris and his Dad are going to create some type of trap pulling apparatus, his poor hands are getting torn up with rope burn.